Tag Archives: user interface

Users Don’t Like Change

Face­book’s Users Don’t Like Change — Read­WriteWeb

Users don’t like change, and as a prod­uct becomes more pop­u­lar, users will grow ever more resis­tant to change.

The entire arti­cle (about Face­book’s con­tentious changes to their News Feed) dis­tills to that one sen­tence. It’s not a Face­book thing1, it’s a peo­ple thing.

Real­ly, I grow tired of all this resis­tance to change. While I’ve been there too — it’s easy to get habit­u­at­ed — it’s annoy­ing to hear. Microsoft Office 20072, Fire­fox 3, Safari 4, Black­Ber­ry, iPhone, etc. etc.

It would seem that if peo­ple had their way, inter­faces would become sta­t­ic (at some unspec­i­fied point) and remain there. Rather than fix­ing quirks, users would sim­ply habit­u­ate to them. And there would be lit­tle room for inno­va­tion.

I under­stand that designers/engineers don’t always get things right, but espe­cial­ly with com­put­ers, there is a lot of change from year to year, and that’s a good thing. An incli­na­tion to embrace change would go a long way to enjoy­ing the dynam­ic world of tech­nol­o­gy. :)

  1. But I do under­stand that Face­book removed func­tion­al­i­ty in this update, and that is a prob­lem. But a dif­fer­ent prob­lem. []
  2. I hear com­plaints about the Rib­bon all day at work, worst of all from my cowork­ers! []

GTK+ is not GNOME’s

So I read this arti­cle this morn­ing on work on GNOME opti­miza­tion and they men­tion the “GNOME file choos­er”. Lo and behold, they actu­al­ly mean the GTK+ file­choos­er, some­thing avail­able in any GTK+ appli­ca­tion, not just in GNOME’s. Per­haps it’s a pedan­tic dis­tinc­tion, but I think it’s an impor­tant one. Lin­ux users should have a clear descrip­tion of how things work (not to say that said descrip­tion should be com­pli­cat­ed) and GNOME holds too impor­tant a posi­tion to be say­ing inac­cu­rate things, in my opin­ion.

I don’t think I’d care as much, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen GNOME say­ing such things. This 2.12 pre­view lists Evo­lu­tion as a “mail client for GNOME”, but I hap­pi­ly use it when not in GNOME. And this leads me to a sore point with GNOME apps.

Many GNOME apps car­ry extra depen­den­cies that a non-GNOME user would­n’t have. Often, these depen­den­cies are unnec­es­sary. A pop­u­lar exam­ple late­ly is Evince, which relies on gnome-vfs. Nau­tilus, GNOME’s file man­ag­er, also con­trols the desk­top, but the default behav­ior of run­ning the “nau­tilus” com­mand is to open a file man­ag­er win­dow and, if not already, take over the desk­top. There’s a flag ( – no-desk­top) and a GConf set­ting that can be set, but in my opin­ion, the default is a poor choice. Bet­ter would be to have “nau­tilus –desk­top” run the desk­top process and have “nau­tilus” only open a file man­ag­er win­dow. The GNOME start­up set­tings are very good, and you can have the desk­top start­ed there­in.

This kind of devel­op­ment and pub­lic­i­ty, in my opin­ion, is telling. It seems GNOME devel­op­ers are devel­op­ing for GNOME. They have a very respectable inte­grat­ed desk­top, but these types of things belie a nar­row-mind­ed atti­tude that hurts Lin­ux as a whole in my opin­ion. With Lin­ux being gen­er­al­ly mod­u­lar – cus­tomiz­able from the ker­nel up, chock full of func­tion­al­i­ty whether on the com­mand line or in a GUI (of which you have many choic­es), and many choic­es of appli­ca­tions to suit your need and taste, etc. – I think it’s frus­trat­ing to see GNOME be so self-ori­ent­ed.

Rather, I pre­fer Xfce’s atti­tude towards their soft­ware; they make things such that the user can use any piece of their choos­ing in any envi­ron­ment. No unnec­es­sary depen­den­cies, because the user’s choice is val­ued. In fact, think­ing about it, I’d say that where­as it seems that GNOME devel­ops for GNOME, Xfce devel­ops for the user. For exam­ple, Thu­nar, Xfce’s upcom­ing file man­ag­er (being devel­oped cur­rent­ly), looks very much like Nau­tilus and will pro­vide com­pa­ra­ble func­tion­al­i­ty, but per­forms faster (in my expe­ri­ence, and I under­stand that this is not a com­plete­ly fair com­par­i­son at this point) and has a short­er depen­den­cy list. Xfme­dia, a media play­er that uses Xine, does­n’t do as much as GNOME’s default, Totem, but per­forms bet­ter (when using GStream­er or Xine) and has a sim­pler UI. Of course, there’s also the fact that Xfce’s win­dow man­ag­er, per­haps the most impor­tant piece of the desk­top puz­zle, is incred­i­bly more use­ful and ele­gant­ly designed than GNOME’s metac­i­ty.

I real­ly appre­ci­ate GNOME’s efforts on the desk­top and rec­om­mend them to any per­son new to Lin­ux, but as some­one who’s been around for a lit­tle while, I’m just a bit dis­ap­point­ed.

Dis­claimer: I do not rep­re­sent Xfce in any way (though I use it pri­mar­i­ly and enjoy it) and in fact, I run GNOME’s pan­el and vol­ume man­ag­er on my Xfce desk­top because I like them.